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Troubleshooting Storage Devices

This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Fast Track to Solutions (Symptom table)


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I can’t prepare the hard disk for use with any version of Windows.

Can’t Prepare ATA/IDE Hard Drive After Installation


I can’t copy files to an ATA/IDE hard drive.

Can’t Change Contents of ATA/IDE Hard Drive


I can’t partition an ATA/IDE drive.

Can’t Change Contents of ATA/IDE Hard Drive


I can’t delete or change files on an ATA/IDE drive.

Can’t Change Contents of ATA/IDE Hard Drive


I can’t format a floppy disk.

Can’t Change Contents of Floppy Disk


I can’t erase files from a floppy disk.

Can’t Change Contents of Floppy Disk


I can’t read a disk in the floppy drive.

Floppy Drive Problems


I can’t save files to a floppy disk.

Can’t Change Contents of Floppy Disk


I can’t boot from the ATA/IDE hard disk.

Hard Drive Doesn’t Boot


I can’t access a newly installed ATA/IDE hard drive.

ATA/IDE Disk Drive Installation Troubleshooting


I can’t use any drive connected to the ATA/IDE interface in my computer.

ATA/IDE Disk Drive and Device Troubleshooting


I can’t read optical media.

General Optical Drive Problems


I can’t erase, format, or save files to a removable-media disk (LS-120/240 SuperDisk, Zip Disk, Jaz, Orb, or others).

Removable Media Drive Problems


I’m having problems writing to CD-R or CD-RW media.

Troubleshooting CD-R and CD-RW Drives and Media


I can’t read recordable (CD-R) media in the target drive.

Can’t Read Recordable (CD-R) Media


I’m getting a buffer-underrun error when I try to create a recordable CD (CD-R).

Buffer Underrun Problems


I can’t copy (drag and drop) files to a CD-R or CD-RW disc.

Can’t Copy or Drag and Drop Files to CD-R or CD-RW Media


I can’t read CD-RW media in the target computer.

Rewriteable (CD-RW) Media Problems


I can’t delete files from a CD-RW disc.

Can’t Delete Files from a CD-RW Disc


I can’t read a particular recordable or rewriteable DVD disc with my DVD drive.

DVD Media Compatibility


I installed Y-splitters to power additional drives, and now I’m having problems.

Checking the Hard Disk Connection to the Power Supply


I just installed a new ATA/IDE drive, and the screen is blank when I turn on the computer.

Checking the Drive and Host Adapter Connection to the Data Cable


I’ve lost the documentation for my drive and need information about jumpers and other settings.

Sidebar: Got Questions? Ask the Drive Vendor.


I think my hard disk has failed.

Determining Actual Drive Failure Has Occurred


My IEEE-1394a or USB drive is detected when I plug it into the rear of the computer, but not when I plug it into a port on the front of the computer.

Sidebar: Connecting Front-Mounted Header Cables Is Trial by Error


My PC Card slots work, but a new PC Card drive I just plugged in isn’t recognized.

Troubleshooting a PC Card/CardBus Drive


Windows XP recognizes my new hard disk, but Windows 98 can’t read it.

Sidebar: Choosing the Right File System in Windows XP/2000


I keep running Disk Management but it can’t partition the disk.

Troubleshooting Disk Partitioning Problems


My new CD-mastering program doesn’t recognize my writeable drive.

Troubleshooting CD-Mastering Drive Support Problems


I’m not sure which connectors to use for master and slave ATA/IDE drives.

Table 3.2


I’m not sure how to jumper my ATA/IDE drives.

Table 3.2


I keep having buffer underruns with my rewritable CD or DVD drive.

Troubleshooting Buffer Underruns


I want to reuse CD-RW media written with Windows XP’s CD Writing Wizard.

Erasing CD-RW Media Created with Windows XP’s CD-Writing Wizard


I want to upgrade the hard disk in my portable computer to a larger, faster drive.

Upgrading a Portable Hard Disk


How can I help an existing DVD drive to read DL media?

Troubleshooting Incorrect Media and Media Usage Problems


Your "personal confuser’s" hard disk is one of the most important parts of your PC. If the hard disk built into your system stops working, you can’t load your operating system, you can’t surf the Web, you can’t play a game...well, you get the idea.

You might be using an external hard disk for additional storage or backup. If it stops working, whatever you stored on it isn’t accessible. If that happens to be your collection of MP3 or WMA CD rips, it’s going to be very quiet at your home or office until you get that hard disk back on line again and working.

Your CPU might be the fastest on your block and your memory might be smokin’ fast, but if your hard disk decides not to wake up in the morning, your computer’s nothing but a great big paperweight. Frankly, when I need a paperweight, a nicely polished rock works a lot better—and it’s easier to lift besides!

Let’s be honest—hard disk failures don’t happen nearly as often as they did when the IBM PC was a newbie, but they still happen. It’s not much consolation to find out that you’re the only one in your circle of PC users with a sick hard disk. In this chapter, we’ll help you find the reasons for hard disk problems, find the solutions, and show you how to get advance notice of problems before a sick hard disk dies and takes your data away.

If you’re reading this book after your old hard disk has been packed off to the manufacturer for replacement, we can still help. You’ve got to get the new one installed, so let us help you with that process, too.

Troubleshooting Installed Hard Disk Drives

When you turn on your computer, you expect the system to start, load the operating system from the hard disk, and display the usual desktop or sign-on screen. If the screen comes on but the system never displays any activity from the hard disk, your system (boot) hard disk isn’t working. If the hard disk that starts your computer isn’t working correctly, you’ll see an error message referring to a missing "boot device." Although the computer industry likes to use the term booting to refer to starting a computer, you’re much more likely to want to "boot" your misbehaving PC in the general direction of the trash can!

If the ailing hard disk is an additional drive, such as an external hard disk, it won’t show up in My Computer or Windows Explorer and you’ll see a "Missing Shortcut" error when you try to access files or programs stored on it.

Instead of getting mad, or getting even, it’s time to get smart. What happened? Before you get gloomy and decide that today’s the day that your hard disk has really failed, cheer up! There are plenty of other reasons why your computer and your hard disk might not be talking to each other.

A few problems are the leading causes of apparent hard disk failure; they’re so common that we like to call them the "usual suspects":

  • Nonbootable floppy disk in drive A:

  • Loose or missing power or data cables

  • Incorrect hardware configuration

  • Incorrect BIOS configuration

Whenever we have hard disks that don’t want to work, it’s useful to look at this list and note that there are many reasons other than actual hard disk failure for your hard disk to seem to "disappear" at startup time or not work properly.

To start your research, check out Table 3.1, where we present, in lineup form, the "usual suspects" that cause hard disks to disappear (as far as your PC is concerned) or not work correctly.

Table 3.1 The Usual Suspects in Apparent Hard Disk Failures

Type of Drive

Why Hard Disk Doesn’t Work



Unbootable floppy disk in drive A:.

Remove the floppy disk and reboot.


System power supply might not be connected to drive.

Shut down the system, attach the power connectors to the drive, and restart.


Data cable is not connected at all or not connected properly.

Shut down the system and then reconnect the cable to the drive and ATA/IDE or SATA interface.

IEEE-1394 (FireWire, i.Link)

Port disabled.

Verify that the port is working by using Device Manager.


Drive not powered on.

Check the power going to the drive.


Port can’t provide power to drive.

Check that you are using a 6-wire 1394a port. Only 6-wire 1394a ports can power a 1394 drive; 4-wire ports do not provide power.


Port disabled.

Verify that the port is working by using Device Manager.


Drive not powered on.

Check the power going to the drive.

Table 3.1 gives you an overview of the "usual suspects" and their solutions. If you’re an ace hardware detective, Table 3.1 and the cross-references that follow may be all you need to apprehend the culprit.

But if you're a novice at tracking down a troublesome component, keep reading.

For more information about the ATA/IDE interface, see "The ATA/IDE Interface," Chapter 1.

For more information about the Serial ATA (SATA) interface, see "The Serial ATA (SATA) Interface," Chapter 1.

For more information about USB, see "USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 Ports," Chapter 7, and "Troubleshooting USB Ports and Hubs," Chapter 7.

For more information about IEEE-1394 (Fire/Wire, i.Link), see "IEEE-1394a (FireWire 400) Ports," Chapter 7, and "Troubleshooting IEEE-1394 Ports and Hubs," Chapter 7.

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